The Islamic festival of Eid-ul Azha is an event celebrated in commemoration of the sacrifice of Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) for the will of Allah. Among all the festivities a large amount of revenue is generated by the butchering community who slaughter animals in return for substantial amounts. A noticeable scenario recently, is the turning of local cobblers, blacksmiths etc. into butchers. Many times these men, greedy to fill up their pockets, become butchers without any proper training or professional experience. These amateur and inept butchers then end up damaging the skins and hides of sacrificial animals which is a major loss to Pakistan’s growing economy.

Leather produced in Pakistan has been appraised of being of high quality with the industry playing a significant role in helping the economy contributing 5 per cent to the GDP. According to the Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA), Pakistan earns about $1.2 billion from hides and skins annually. However damage inflicted to the skins of sacrificial animals in the form of scratches, or their inappropriate handling as a result of the incompetence or negligence of the butcher proves to be highly detrimental. Compensations become compromised, not allowing the leather industry to realise its full potential.

Common leather products produced in Pakistan include handbags, gloves, wallets and other sports goods with buffalo being a specialty in the global market forming 6.3% of our export earnings. The leather industry is a source of income to more than 500,000 people in the country, either directly or indirectly. In case of the industry shutting down a large section would end up becoming unemployed. According to reports, nearly 25 to 30 per cent of sacrificial animals’ hides and skins removed by amateur butchers on Eid-ul Azha do not get good prices in national and international markets due to improper handling and preservation.

Pakistan’s leather industry has great potential to grow, with the country earning an added amount of $310 million per annum provided care is taken while butchering sacrificial animals and carefully preserving their hides and skins. Certain interventions in the industry can do wonders for the country. For example, proper training can be provided to butchers that could prevent hides from getting scratched thus helping to maintain the overall appearance of the finished leather. To further facilitate the growth of the footwear industry, Footwear parks can be set up in big cities, similar to those in our neighbouring country. Leather products exhibition where all leather goods are displayed under a single roof can help smoothen the process of selling and buying. Projects that would provide accessories to the different leather products such as fancy buttons and zippers, shoe laces need to be encouraged and developed as these would help enhance the export of these products.

Pakistan’s leather industry has potential to grow to a US $2 billion industry if hides and skins treatments are improved. Because of faulty butcher cuts and animal skin diseases, 33 per cent of hides and skins of slaughtered animals are wasted. We could earn an additional US $310 million per annum by overcoming the skins and hides wastage and setting up mechanised slaughter houses in the country.

According to the PTA, it is expected to collect an estimated 7.3 million hides and skins worth approximately Rs 6 billion from upcoming Eid-ul-Azha. It is expected 2.5 million cows, four million goats, 0.8 million sheep and 30,000 camels would be sacrificed this year. As a result, 7.3 million animal hides are expected to be available to tanners. PTA has expectations that the price of hides will be the same like previous year. The PTA maintained that the prices of sacrificial animals’ hides sharply declined this year by over 40 per cent which reduced total business transactions by almost Rs 6 billion due to global leather market recession. The sharp decline in the rates of raw hides would cause a huge setback to the welfare organisations, charity and trust hospitals, and other collectors who get a major chunk of their annual resources from it.

There are 725 tanneries producing both chrome leather and vegetable tanned leather. Moreover, the leather industry provides direct and indirect jobs to over 500,000 people across the country. Therefore proper attention should be given to this potential industry of Pakistan. The potential in the leather sector can also be evident from the fact that Pakistan has been importing hides and skins. According to available data, the total import of hides and skins increased from 47.100 million to 54.300 million pieces.

Such efforts would allow not only guarantee a growing economy but also allow the country and its people to earn a good name and repute in the global market, something the country desperately needs in these times.